Saddam Hussein’s lawyer blamed US-led “occupation forces” today for the killing of a second colleague in the trial and urged Arab leaders to “shoulder their responsibility” to combat disorder here that threatens the proceeding.
Five policemen died in a suicide bombing north of the capital today, and gunmen shot dead another foreign embassy employee in the capital. The US military reported another Marine died of wounds suffered in a roadside bombing.
Khalil al-Dulaimi, head of Saddam’s legal team, spoke one day after Adel al-Zubeidi, lawyer for former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan died in a hail of gunfire in west Baghdad. Thamir al-Khuzaie, lawyer for another co-defendant, Saddam’s half brother Barazan Ibrahim, was wounded.
Another defence lawyer, Saadoun al-Janabi, was found shot dead the day after the trial began on October 19. The assassinations raise doubts about Iraq’s ability to try the case, although the Iraqi government dismissed calls to move the venue or halt the trial, which resumes November 28.
Al-Dulaimi, speaking in the insurgent hotspot of Ramadi, brushed aside government suggestions that pro-Saddam insurgents or religious extremists were behind the killings.
“The occupation forces are responsible for this criminal incident, and they bear the responsibility of preserving the lives of the people regardless of their identity,” he said. “The Iraqi government also has the responsibility to protect people and put an end to such actions.”
He called on “all free people, the United Nations, the Arab League, Arab presidents and kings and the Arab Bar Association to shoulder the responsibility to face the tyranny of the criminal gangs that are targeting the country".
President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and longtime Saddam opponent, also condemned the assassination and urged the rest of the defence team to accept government protection which they had refused.
Regardless of who was responsible, the killing of another defence lawyer reinforced grave misgivings among human rights groups and international lawyers about holding the trial in a country gripped by a brutal insurgency – much of it led by the defendants’ supporters in the Sunni Arab minority.
“I don’t understand how you can have a fair trial in this atmosphere of insecurity, with bombs going off,” said Richard Goldstone, the first prosecutor at the UN tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and one of the world’s most prominent jurists.
He told The Associated Press that Iraq’s government should consider shifting the trial to an Arab country “where there is security".
In another example of the ongoing disorder, five policemen were killed and five others were wounded when a suicide car bomber struck a patrol near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The US command announced that an American Marine had died of injuries received when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle on Monday in western Iraq. The latest death brings to at least 2,055 the number of US military service members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In Baghdad, a driver for the Sudanese Embassy was shot dead today as he left the Palestinian mission, police said. The shooting occurred in the Mansour area of western Baghdad, where gunmen have attacked foreign diplomats and businessmen in the past. The driver was a Sudanese citizen, his embassy said.
The attack followed the abduction last month of two employees of the Moroccan Embassy, who were seized on the highway between Baghdad and Amman, Jordan. Statements attributed to al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility and said the two had been sentenced to death.
Al-Qaida also claimed responsibility for the kidnap and killing last July of three foreign diplomats – two Algerians and one Egyptian – as part of a campaign to cut ties between Muslim countries and the Shiite-dominated, US-backed Iraqi government.
Also today, US Air Force jets destroyed a building near the Syrian border where al-Qaida insurgents hid weapons, the US military said. The attack occurred early in the day in the village of Bu Hardan near the cities of Qaim and Husaybah where US and Iraqi troops conducted a major operation in the past four days.
“The terrorists were seen moving mortars and other small weapons into the targeted building,” the statement said. “This weapons cache was directly linked to mortar attacks on Coalition and Iraqi security forces.”
The statement said the raid destroyed the building and “all contents of the weapons cache.”
Late yesterday, the military announced that US and Iraqi forces have secured the town of Husaybah and that al-Qaida-led insurgents there have been neutralised.
Also in Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a minibus, killing its driver, police Captain Qassim Hussein said. A roadside bomb in the southern neighbourhood of Dora killed a motorist and wounded another man, police said.